Some concerns have been raised in Santa Monica over differing messages from three candidates for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, according to published reports.
In Santa Monica, the signs for challengers Craig Foster, Karen Farrer and Seth Jacobson read “Transparency. Focus. Achievement.” While in Malibu, they proclaim, “From Malibu. For Malibu.”
“It's really important that the voters choose board candidates who consider it their responsibility to look out for the entire school district and our children in both Santa Monica and Malibu,” Board President Ben Allen, who is seeking reelection, told the Santa Monica LookOut. (Allen is a Santa Monica resident.)
The candidates, who are running on a platform of reform, are going up against incumbents Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez. The election is Nov. 6.
Foster, who is the president of Advocates of Malibu Public Schools, said previously the group is running to represent all schools in the district, not just Malibu.
"It’s still uphill battle against a very powerful entrenched political system," Foster said, adding that if voters elected all three "that would give us three out of the seven votes on the school board."
The last Malibu resident to serve on the school board was Kathy Wisnicki, who chose not to seek reelection in 2008.
"We’re running on a platform of putting the focus back where it belongs on excellent schools, and having schools as good as the two cities deserve," Foster said.
Foster, Farrer and Jacobson have all voiced support for pursuing the process of creating two separate districts, pointing to preliminary analysis from the SMMUSD and an independent study.
Allen, who has also said he supports exploring the possibility of separating the districts, said he has some concern about the number of Malibu candidates.
“If they had one candidate asking for a voice for Malibu, this message would've made more sense … The idea that they want to take over half the board is something voters in both communities ought to view with some hesitation,” Allen told the Santa Monica Lookout.
Board member Ralph Mechur told the newspaper he believes the signs in Malibu are about unification, the legal term for creating a new school district.
“Trying to drive the focus toward unification could impact current programs negatively,” he said.